Not a day went by that Walter Rather didn’t recognize what a blessing it was to be alive. After serving during World War II in Europe, where he was wounded twice and survived fighting in the D-Day invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, he expressed often how lucky he felt he have come home.
“He was always very proud of his time that he fought in World War II," said his son Fred “Fritz” Rather. "He always said he was blessed in life to have lived through the war.”
Rather, of Clearwater, Fla., formerly of Calumet City, spent time in his youth riding with his father, who was a train engineer, on the last steam engine running from Fond Du Lac, Wis., to Chicago.
Rather enlisted in the Army three days after graduating high school in 1943. After his discharge, he attended Florida State University and the University of Wisconsin and he worked as a surveyor.
“He decided he wanted to travel the country and that’s how he met my mom," his son said. "They were in a dance hall in Southern Illinois and he asked her to dance and one thing led to another and six months later they were married.”
The two celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary shortly before he died.
Although his wife has spent the last five years in a nursing home, Rather visited her every day. “He was very dedicated to her,” said his son. “He was loyal all those years and everyone there knew him and called him ‘Wonderful Wally.’
Rather and his family eventually settled in Calumet City and he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 28 years.
“My father believed in hard work. When we were young he worked 60 to 70 hours a week to support our family. He instilled a strong work ethic in my brother and me,” said Fred Rather.